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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Dating violence is a pattern of behavior where one person uses or threatens to use physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse to control his or her dating partner.

Domestic violence is not only a problem for adults, but also affects teens in their relationships.

Many studies have looked at teen dating relationships. The results of the studies are alarming: one in three teens experiences some kind of abuse in his or her romantic relationships; 40 percent of all teenage girls know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by their partner; and, almost 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their relationships continue to date their abuser.

Recognizing abuse might be difficult for teens. They might see their friends in similar situations and think that’s what goes on in all relationships. Dating violence is not normal or something that should be expected.

Teens might encounter obstacles trying to get out of abusive relationships. They have money, transportation and even housing concerns. They might worry about their friends and family finding out. However, just as adults do, teens have the right to be in safe and healthy relationships.

There is help, information and support available to individuals struggling with unhealthy relationships. Go to www.LoveIsRespect.org. Locally, concerned teens and their loved ones may call the Center for Abused Persons’ 24-hour crisis hotline at 301-645-3336 for immediate, confidential assistance.

Love shouldn’t hurt.

Annette Gilbert-Jackson, Waldorf

The writer is executive director of the Center for Abused Persons.